The Blood Matters Blog ·

Four Legendary Women Who Changed Blood Transfusion Medicine Forever

Dr. Janet Vaughan, Dr. Winifred Mayer Ashby, Dr. Helen Taussig and Dr. Claudia Cohn each made history-making contributions to the world of blood banking and transfusion medicine.


As we commemorate Women's History Month, it's a good time to recognize the groundbreaking contributions of some trailblazing women who have left indelible marks in blood banking and transfusion medicine.

Dr. Janet Vaughan

One such pioneering figure was Dr. Janet Vaughan, a prominent British hematologist who played a pivotal role in transforming blood transfusion services during World War II. As the director of the Blood Transfusion Service of the British Red Cross, she spearheaded the establishment of mobile blood banks and introduced innovative techniques for blood preservation, ensuring a stable supply of blood for injured soldiers on the front lines.

Dr. Winifred Mayer Ashby

Dr. Winifred Mayer Ashby played a key role in developing techniques for blood typing and cross-matching, ensuring compatibility between donors and recipients to minimize the risk of adverse reactions. During her fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in 1917 she also developed a study to discover the true lifespan of red blood cells. It was commonly accepted at the time that red blood survival rate was only two to three weeks, but Dr. Ashby created a new technique that was able to accurately measure the rate up to 110 days.

This finding was especially groundbreaking in the development of improved methods of blood preservation for transfusions during World War II, becoming the primary method used for blood storage and transportation across long distances.

Dr. Helen Taussig

Dr. Helen Taussig, renowned as the founder of pediatric cardiology, not only revolutionized the treatment of congenital heart defects but also contributed significantly to blood transfusion medicine. Her research laid the groundwork for developing safe blood transfusion protocols for pediatric cardiac surgery, saving countless lives and improving outcomes for children with heart conditions.

Dr. Claudia Cohn

Women, such as Dr. Claudia Cohn, have been instrumental in advocating for the rights and welfare of blood donors, ensuring that donation processes are safe, ethical, and inclusive. A leading hematologist and transfusion medicine specialist, Dr. Cohn has been a vocal advocate for blood donor rights, and is at the forefront of efforts to promote blood donation diversity and eliminate discriminatory policies that have historically marginalized certain donor populations, ensuring equitable access to safe blood products for all.

As we celebrate the achievements of these remarkable women during Women's History Month, we honor their contributions and hope they inspire future generations to build on their legacy of driving innovation and excellence in their commitment to saving lives and advancing blood medicine.